Find out the latest indie author news. For FREE.

Nathan Pettijohn
Public Opinion

Adult; Mystery/Thriller; (Market)

Herb is a fixer, a social media manipulator, an anonymous barracuda in a sea of wealthy marks. Blackmail, character assassination, fraud—it’s all in a day’s work. When a quick scam introduces Herb to a cold-blooded director on a quest to film the Marquis de Sade’s Justine, Herb enters a world of porn stars and celebrity sociopaths, massage parlors and murder. Herb is building a family. He’s trying to build a conscience. But most importantly, Herb will get his money, no matter how many lives he has to ruin along the way.
Herbert, a hacker and a social media "fixer," does business with sleazy Hollywood figures, loses himself in a legal and moral swamp, and falls in love with an adult film star in this fast-moving tale. He starts by working to destroy the reputation of a man who cheated his friend and stays on to help powerful director Titus with some personal problems. Meanwhile, his love affair with Ruby keeps him off balance: he tries to manage a life with a woman whose years in porn may have left her damaged, even as his greed sucks him into increasingly serious crimes, including conspiracy and murder.

Pettijohn (Travels with Hafa) deftly displays Hollywood glitter flanked by the seamy side of a world whose denizens have too much money and a grotesque sense of entitlement, made evident in scenes like the "big shots" visiting a New Orleans massage parlor and discussing whether sexual services are available. The bland prose in these scenarios exposes their commodification of sex: "We’re going to get massages and hand jobs, then go back to my place for dinner and poker." Some readers may find the graphic sex—alongside some horrific violence—overwhelming, but there's no doubt those elements effectively color this noirish tale.

Pettijohn’s main character focus is on Herbert and Ruby, and the balancing act between Ruby’s sordid career and her high ideals is handled beautifully. She doesn't lie to Herbert, continuing to act while becoming more deeply involved with him—something he has trouble with, but this isn't Pretty Woman, and Pettijohn takes this couple down a path as dark as it is believable, as Herbert copes with the lows in their doomed relationship in some seriously inappropriate ways while his crimes escalate. Their haunting end, centered on her naiveté and his weakness, serves as an eloquent reminder that desperation is more commonplace than we think.

Takeaway: A dark and glittering tale that exposes Hollywood’s sordid underbelly.

Great for fans of: Nathanael West’s Day of the Locust; Martin Turnbull’s Twisted Boulevard.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: NA
Editing: B
Marketing copy: B+